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Emily Post(modern): Grammar for Tweeting

So in light of recently being added to the list “Mississippi Celebrities” on Twitter alongside the likes of Britney Spears, Channing Tatum, and OPRAH (oh my goodness Oprah, I’ve made it, y’all), I thought it only appropriate that I actually start tweeting again (shameless plug: follow me @marylanehaskell).

But to be honest I find myself struggling profoundly with the 140 character limit. I pride myself in my ability to turn a phrase, so for someone as verbose as I am (which is just a fancy way of saying I’m super chatty) being limited in this way often means having to choose between either a) Tweeting bare bones anecdotes without much flair, or b) Bastardizing the English language to make sure my desired anecdote fits within the character limit. As far as I am concerned this is Sophie’s Choice.

So what do we do? I am aware that, as The Bard says, “Brevity is the soul of wit” (Shakespeare would be SO good at Twitter), but sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough. So for those moments when my tweets aren’t as concise as my reaction to binge watching Season 3 of “House of Cards” on Netflix:

... I have consulted our friend Emily Post(modern) about how to appropriately proceed.

Social media. What a game changer! In a world where our self worth is entirely based not upon what families we are received by or where we spend our summer season, but is based instead upon how many followers we have on Instagram or who retweets our tweets, we better make sure we get as much bang out of our 140 character buck as we can.

Let me begin by saying that if you are a celebrity, these rules do not apply to you. You want to remove every single article from your tweet to save characters? Go for it. You want to spell using only consonants (happen -> hppn)? Be my guest. You have things to say and we are at the edge of our smart phones just waiting to favorite and retweet your content. For the first time in history, celebrities are allowing the public unlimited access to the innermost workings of their lives, and we can’t get enough. We are addicted. So go ahead and break every grammar rule in the book – we’re still listening.

We mere mortals on the other hand have to be a little more careful. Twitter trolls LOVE correcting grammar. You’d think on a medium like this we would all just understand one another. With 140 characters there are BOUND to be sacrifices. There WILL be grammar casualties on the battlefield that is one’s Twitter feed. But that doesn’t stop people from jumping down your throat when you use “its” instead of “it’s” in hopes of saving the character that tiny apostrophe costs you. For this reason, I have compiled a some tips for maintaining respectful etiquette in the process of disrespecting one of the most beautifully complex languages on earth. Let’s begin, shall we?

When tweeting, I am a big fan of the run on sentence. Sure if you were writing a college paper this would never be acceptable, but I have come to understand that punctuation is one of the first things to go when fighting against the 140 character countdown. For instance, this tweet from earlier this week:

This tweet is, of course, missing quite a lot of punctuation. But I would argue that it isn’t just your normal run on sentence, but rather a representation of my stream of consciousness. For when I learned earlier this week that Chipotle has started delivering, I can promise you my thought process was EXACTLY that. SO –

Lesson #1: Run on sentence = stream of consciousness. Acceptable… especially when being funny (please tell me I’m funny).

After punctuation, the next things to get thrown out are prepositions and conjunctions. With becomes w/… And becomes &… These are acceptable abbreviations. Also popular is the substitution of numbers for letters. To becomes 2… For becomes 4. You’ll find examples of both these abbreviation techniques in my tweet below about flying with a head cold during last year’s Ebola scare.

What always remain in tact are my contractions, and I am sure to still observe the a/an rule.

Lesson #2: This may be a battlefield, but we must maintain some semblance of civility.

As for that head cold… the people on the plane were not the only ones worried about my having been exposed to Ebola. Upon arriving in Mississippi, my doctor sent me to the hospital where I was quarantined and tested. I heard the nurses whispering to one another, “She has a temperature and she’s from NEW YORK”. There’s nothing scarier than a Yankee with Ebola, I suppose. Bless their hearts. Moving right along…

There are times, however, when simply abbreviating conjunctions and prepositions or substituting numbers for letters doesn’t quite cut it. In these moments, what I like to do is let Emojis tell the story:

Emojis, of course, are the little icons that appear in place of the word “eyes” and “lips”. Now… I will admit that this is one of my worst offenses. But this Audrey Hepburn quote was too lovely not to share, and I think my Emoji usage is pretty clever if I do say so myself, which brings me to -

Lesson #3: Sacrificing grammar is reckless, using Emojis is resourceful (and quite cute).

Now what I probably should have done for that Audrey quote was search for an image featuring the text and tweeted that out instead. Because after all -

Lesson #4: A picture is worth a thousand words… especially when there are words on the picture.

See how the picture took care of all the character heavy words, leaving me free to keep my tweet simple? Tweeting images of text you want to share is a failsafe way to express yourself properly while adhering to the 140 character limit, leaving both you and Grammar Nazis alike quite satisfied. That is, of course, unless you have poor grammar to begin with. If that’s the case well then, as my Papa used to say, “You’re up sh%t creek without a paddle.”

On a completely different note, sometimes a tweet gets limited to even LESS than 140 characters. Like when Viola Davis asks for a four word response to an episode of “How To Get Away With Murder”. FOUR WORDS?! As I’m sure you can imagine I had a hard time with this one, but what Queen Viola wants, Queen Viola gets.

That wasn’t a proper sentence. It was hardly a coherent thought. But for any of you who watch HTGAWM, I’m sure you’ll agree that those words were PRETTY accurate. The bottom line here is this -

Lesson #5: When Viola Davis demands that you abandon your grammar, abandon your grammar you must.

But then, after all that, sometimes the war cries die down and the clouds clear over the grammatical battlefield that is your Twitter feed, letting the sun shine down upon a perfect tweet in the midst of all the chaos. A tweet like this one from Sunday night’s episode of “Game of Thrones”:

Clocked in at 130 characters exactly. I could have even thrown another hashtag on there but hey, I’m not greedy. If only there could be “roll-over characters” like AT&T does roll-over data. I have a feeling those 10 characters could come in handy later. “Dancing With the Stars” is getting PRETTY dramatic.

With Grace and Good Humor

(in 140 characters),

Emily Post(modern)

My name is Mary Lane Haskell and my two "claims to fame" are that I have Dolly Parton's fax number and that Reese Witherspoon once liked a post on my Instagram.  I am an actor, a writer, and a profound Chipotle enthusiast making my way in Los Angeles while trying to stay true to my family's southern roots, all with grace and a touch a good humor.  I'm so glad you're here!


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